Driving in the rain is something that all Malaysians will encounter at some point in their lives. Given our unpredictable weather, wet weather driving takes on significant importance. Yet, many road users do not seem to know what to do when it starts raining. Even worse, they do the wrong things. Again, let’s approach this from a fundamental level. The key is to adopt good habits and discard bad ones when driving in the rain.
1.) Smoothen your driving input; Your input to your steering and pedals need to be far smoother in the wet compared to in the dry. With the steering, no sudden or hard movements, feed your controls in progressively. Same goes with the operation of your throttle and brakes, everything must be smooth and gentle. This is because, in the dry, you can be more ham-fisted with your inputs as grip levels are high. But in the wet, or low grip conditions, doing the same will put too much strain on your tyres. Avoid sudden, abrupt inputs as any sudden weight transfer will cause loss of control.
2.) Space out; In rainy conditions, it’s always wise to leave more space to the traffic around you. In wet conditions, your tyres’ ability for stopping, accelerating and changing direction is greatly reduced. Leaving more space enables you to get a better view of your surroundings, and it gives you more time to react should anything untoward happen around you.
3.) Turn on your headlights; When I conduct advanced driving lessons, I always tell participants to not only see their surroundings, but to be seen as well. Switching on your headlights helps you to be seen, because visibility is reduced drastically in the rain. If conditions are foggy, then you can also activate your foglights.
1.) Turn on your hazard lights; A Malaysian favourite. This must be emphasised, DO NOT activate your hazard lights while driving in the rain. Hazard lights are meant to indicate an emergency (heavy rain IS NOT an emergency) or a stationary vehicle. Think about it, if you’re driving with the hazards on, how are you going to indicate when you switch lanes?
2.) Speed excessively; The only contact patch you have between your car and the road surface are your tyres, and its grip levels are reduced significantly when it rains. By design, yes tyres are designed to channel water away as you drive through water, but at a finite rate. You can only go so fast before a tyre runs out of ability to channel a certain amount of water. Observe your surroundings, and adjust your speed accordingly. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
3.) Use cruise control; It takes away your throttle modulation, and was never designed to be used in low grip conditions such as rain. You, the driver, are ultimately the one in control of your vehicle.
Ultimately, there is little point to all of these if your tyres are bald, poorly maintained or generally in bad condition. Always make sure you check that you have enough tyre thread and air pressure. This could be a potentially life-saving habit that you can cultivate. All that said, do remember, there are no prizes for driving fast in the wet, on the public roads at least.
If you haven't read this, here's why you don't drive through flooded roads with your air-cond on.